January 16, 2005
Program gives women new lives
Jan 15, 2005 [The Brunswick News]
By By BJ Corbitt
Cristal Morton's eyes light up when she starts talking about the future.
"I'm excited," the 26-year-old says as she ticks off a list of her plans for the coming months and years. Her goals are simple enough. She wants to live with her three children again, become a certified nurse assistant and join a church.
For now, though, all of that is in the future because Morton's past — a cycle of alcohol and drug abuse — has led her to spend the present as a resident patient at the Gateway Behavioral Health Services' women's residence unit in Darien.
Morton has been living there since October and plans to graduate back into her life in Brunswick next month.
The unit, which opened in July, has 16 beds for women who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction, as well as space for their children. Eighty-six women have been treated there since July.
The unit is far from sterile, with cozy carpeting, a collection of cartoons on DVD for the younger residents and a kitchen area that appears lifted from an average suburban home serving to make the women and children feel as much at home as possible.
A similar unit, with six beds for women, opened in Brunswick this month, but isn't able to accommodate children.
"Women's needs have been neglected," said Onie Alexander, substance abuse director for Gateway and coordinator of both residence units.
Alexander said the McIntosh County unit focuses on helping women improve all aspects of their lives. In addition to a 12-step program to treat substance abuse habits, the women are treated for other disorders they may have, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, lingering effects of domestic violence and other mental illnesses. The women are also instructed in spirituality and basic life skills like parenting, nutrition and finance.
For Christina Deal, the nearly two months she's spent in the McIntosh County unit have provided her with help she couldn't find living in Savannah.
"I'm 27 years old, and I've been involved in a world of abuse and alcohol and drugs since I was 12, and it's just kind of snowballed," she said. "I couldn't stay off drugs even knowing I was going to get drug tested. I couldn't do it."
Deal says the help she's received through Gateway has given her the ability to live a clean and sober life. She completed the program Friday, and now has her chance to prove it.
"I've never made a 24-hour period (clean) before in my life," she said.
"I've been clean 51 days now. For me, that's a lifetime. I know what to do now if I want to stay clean."
The program has different levels built in based on the needs of the women who are admitted. Women may stay as briefly as 30 days or as long as six months, Alexander said.
By the time they leave, they're expected, at minimum, to have a suitable job and place to live. Sponsors who work with the women daily after their release from the program monitor their progress and provide any help they need.
The units in Brunswick and Darien serve women in Glynn, McIntosh, Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Liberty and Long counties.
Alexander says watching realization and understanding dawn in the women who come across her path is a great reward.
"When they get the insight, it's a whole other person," she said. "I think that's the best part of it."
Posted by Nancy at January 16, 2005 10:39 AM